1.    Definition of children’s homes

Children’s home is a place where children are cared for if their parents are dead or are unable to take good care of them. Children’s homes can also be defined as housing designated to accord common care for children who live apart from their parents. This could be a residential space reserved for persons below the legal age of adulthood to be providers of adult supervision and this includes orphanages as well as homes for children in any kind of need or trouble.

 

1.1.       Origin of children’s home

Normally, early child development was seen as a natural occurrence and a general process of progression or transformations for children. These transformations could be physical, mental, cognitive, socio-emotional or moral. These transformations were driven by the interactions between maturity processes and children’s progressive structuring and the restructuring of their experiences, as they gradually acquire more capacities for thinking and reasoning (Lourenco and Machado, 1996: 149).

 

Under the developmental paradigm the dialogue revolving around young children’s needs and provision rarely viewed them as rights-holders with their own views and perspectives. Instead very young children have often been perceived as objects of compassion and passive recipients of care (UNCRC et al., 2006: 31-32). These new understandings of children’s active participation in social activities call for an approach to child development that emphasizes the plurality of developmental pathways and children’s roles in influencing their own development (Estep, 2002: 143). Hillary Clinton’s book, ‘It Takes a Village’, points out that “children are not rugged individualists”. All children need a permanent home and a lasting relationship with at least one committed adult and children needs are best provided for by a family. If children become parentless, adoption is overwhelmingly considered the best alternative. Kinship care or legal guardianship with kin is closely ranked second.

 

Children’s homes have originated to give alternative care to children to enable them develop. Alternative care: Many African countries (e.g. Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi), are experiencing a proliferation of residential care facilities and temporary shelters. The vast majority of the children living in orphanages have at least one surviving parent, and others have at least one contactable relative. With the right mixture of income and support services, many of these children could be reunified with families. There is an urgent need to explore alternative care options such as kinship and foster care, guardianship and domestic adoption as alternatives for those who cannot be reunified. Family re-integration services for street children and other children living outside of family care also need to be strengthened. (Deininger, Garcia, and Subbarao 2001).

 

According to the Kenya Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) which was prepared by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, through the Department of Children Services, it was found that there is an ever increasing number of orphans and vulnerable children country wide. It is estimated that by 2005, the number of orphans will be at 2.4 million, 48% of these being as a result of HIV/AIDS. This figure is besides a higher number of children rendered vulnerable by poverty, emergencies, insecurity, amidst other factors. The government and other stakeholders have come up with several interventions to address the problem of OVC but this has remained inadequate in the face of the increasing number of OVC. A rapid assessment, analysis and action planning process (RAAAPP) conducted in 2004 identified the need to urgently develop a National Plan of Action (NPA) to address the needs of OVC and to guide OVC interventions in the country.

 

1.2.       How children’s homes are spreading

The face of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has brought about a widespread increase in the number of orphans resulting in a proliferation of orphanages across the region. This is necessitated by the realization that the care for children whether orphaned or otherwise in a ‘home’ and ‘community’ environment is ideal. The argument that residential care violates the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the international child welfare sector is united in advocating its use as only a temporary ‘last resort’ for children. The position is shared by the South African government and other key players in the local child welfare sector (subbarao et. aI 2001).

 

Addressing the needs of Vulnerable Children (VC) and mitigating negative outcomes of the growing vulnerable population worldwide is a high priority area for national governments and international stakeholders that recognize this as an issue with social, economic, and human rights dimensions. Assembling the relevant available data on vulnerable children in one place, and acknowledging the gaps that still exist in our knowledge, will assist policy makers and program implementers to make evidence-based decisions about how best to apply direct funding and program activities and maximize positive outcomes for children and their caretakers (VC-CARE Project, Boston University centre for global health and development report 2004-2008).

 

There has recently been a resurgence of debate about ‘the child care question’, with assertions in the media that non-parental care of young children is detrimental to their development (‘Home truths absent in child care debate’, The Australian, 24 March 2000; ‘Mother of all battles’, The Age, 29 April 2000). Despite these provocative assertions, the overriding conclusion of the huge volume of research on child care is that, given high quality care, the experience of child care is not harmful, and is sometimes beneficial, to children (Clarke-Stewart, Gruber and Fitzgerald 1994; Caughty, DiPietro and Strobino 1994; Scarr and Eisenberg 1993; Andersson 1992).

 

In Africa, the concept of absorbing vulnerable children into extended families and within the community is common. Ghana takes ownership of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, an adage prevalent in the Ghana language used in the Greater Accra region. It well reflects the use of traditional communal living and the extended family system as the indigenous responses to the provision and protection for vulnerable children (Addison, 2007). Beyond poverty, specific to Africa and Kenya is the effect of HIV / AIDS. With streetism being a relatively new phenomenon, the role of HIV / AIDS must be considered. A study carried out in various parts including Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt found that children are exposed to real or constant threats of violence, hostile community members or peers.

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